Wyness restores Aberdeen's identity

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KEITH Wyness is not a man for half measures. One of his first tasks on becoming Aberdeen’s chief executive 18 months ago was to formulate the plans for the club’s centenary year.

He was not impressed with what was in place - "a match, a dinner and a game of golf", as he puts it. Instead, 2003 will now see Aberdeen celebrate their milestone with no fewer than 100 events throughout the whole year, topped by a March friendly with 1983 European Super Cup opponents Hamburg and other games still to be confirmed against leading English Premiership opposition.

Wyness also plans to take Aberdeen back into the heart and minds of the north-east, with a series of education and community-based initiatives aimed as restoring their prominence off the field.

On the pitch, he is already convinced the new management team of Steve Paterson and Duncan Shearer will deliver the success he desires.

"I think Steve and Duncan can take us back to the future," said Wyness. "I think we can do well again if we get back the strong north-east identity, with the accent on good young Scottish players, just as we did in the past.

"I hadn’t met Steve at all until the night he got the job and the thing which shone through was his honesty. He is extremely down to earth, single-minded and knows what he wants. He hasn’t been deflected or overawed by the job at all. He relies on what has worked for him before and he’s going to make sure it happens again here.

"It’s been so refreshing, because he understands what Aberdeen means to the north-east. He has a burning ambition, which is shared by the club.

"I want us to get back to our roots and to the mentality of coming down to the central belt every second week to pillage three points. I think Steve and Duncan will bring that back to the club.

"I don’t think the identity of the team was clear under Ebbe Skovdahl. There was no particular stamp or style developed over his period of time in charge. Now we have a chance to get that back and already there is a fresh passion about the club.

"The club are now being branded commercially as ‘Aberdeen - Scotland’s team’ and there is a board diktat that at least half of the first team will always be Scottish. With Steve and Duncan, I think it will be more than half.

"In our centenary year, which is the most intensive staged by any club, that’s vital because it’s not just about football, it’s about what we mean to the whole community."

As one of the ‘hawks’ in the internecine Premierleague politics of the past 12 months, Wyness now adopts a more conciliatory stance.

Having graphically lampooned the Old Firm’s leaning towards a move into English football in the past, he is now keen to build bridges.

"It’s very important we show a united front," he said. "Now we have an agreement in principle, we genuinely have to get together and maximise our values, not only in broadcasting, but in other ways commercially. There are around 20 different initiatives where we should be working centrally off the field. Too often we try and replay the matches on the pitch on the commercial side, instead of getting together.

"We could have a Premierleague lottery, joint buying groups for merchandise, sharing ground maintenance facilities and many other things. These are things which are staring us in the face. Currently, we are all trying to do these things individually as clubs.

"The Old Firm represent two thirds of the Premierleague’s basic revenue and the other ten clubs one third. At the very least, the ten should be getting together in commercial terms. If we do that, we can equal the Old Firm in terms of revenue and it can only help the game as a whole. I have sensed a greater willingness recently for that to happen.

"Ian McLeod’s recent comments that Celtic were still looking long-term at a move to England were not helpful, but even if there are only 11 clubs committed to Scotland then we must all work together to make the Premierleague effective."

With a fresh round of negotiations over broadcasting contracts imminent, Wyness knows the kind of unity he craves is crucial.

"The viewing figures for the current BBC deal have been incredible, even though the contract itself hasn’t been great for the clubs financially," he said.

"It has shown there is a huge appetite among TV viewers for Scottish football, despite the turmoil which has been going on in the SPL.

"I’m hoping we will get a much better TV deal in the next round of negotiations, which we will have to look at starting around Easter time."